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Bookshop Santa Cruz staff recommendation:

The following books are recommended by our staff as great choices for book groups. Sign up for our Book Ends email newsletter to receive more great book group recommendations.

Looking for more book group recommendations? Find curated book lists for the following categories:

Surviving 2020: Books That Will Make You Believe in Humanity
Strong Women Through the Ages
Book Group Sleepers: Great Books Your Group May Have Missed

Ann Patchett’s new novel is so solely its own. Patchett (best-selling author of Bel Canto) has written a moral adventure story whose beauty lies in the description and well, oddity of its setting. In a narrative abound with deadly snakes, harrowing river rides, and malaria-induced nightmares; State of Wonder describes a world where breathtaking beauty stands side by side with wrenching loss. The story begins with Dr. Marina Singh, a research scientist working at a pharmaceutical company who is sent to Brazil to track down another elusive doctor who is using research with a tribe in the Amazon to create a valuable new drug. What happens upon Singh’s arrival is a tribute to Ann Patchett’s gift of storytelling. There are images in this book that you will never be able to forget; this is a complex tale of adventure, moral tug-of-wars, and incredible, distinctive beauty.
Reviewed by: S.M.C.
State of Wonder: A Novel Cover Image
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ISBN: 9780062049803
Availability: Hard to Find
Published: Harper - June 7th, 2011

The New York Times called it "the best book you'll read all year," and I have to agree. Saunders' stories are completely unlike anything I've read before. At once profoundly disturbing, thought provoking, and enlightening, Saunders masterfully captures the odd, ragged edges of our life stories. This incendiary collection of mind-bending stories will tear you apart, then patch you back up with a kiss on the forehead.

Reviewed by: Andrea
Tenth of December: Stories Cover Image
ISBN: 9780812993806
Availability: Available from Warehouse - Usually Delivers in 3-14 Days
Published: Random House - January 8th, 2013

Dana is the secret daughter of James, who is married and has another family across town. Set in Atlanta in the 1980s, and struggling with her shame and anger when she realizes that she is the illegitimate daughter, Dana becomes obsessed with her half-sister Chaurisse, who has no idea that Dana and her mother exist. And then one day, Dana and Chaurisse’s paths inexorably cross, and the secrets kept, begin to unravel. This is a disquieting coming-of-age novel that examines the obligations and bonds that make up love and family.

Reviewed by: S.M.C.
Silver Sparrow Cover Image
ISBN: 9781616201425
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: Algonquin Books - May 8th, 2012

This guy's writing is electrifying; it sizzles with life and carries you along on a journey that is at once breathtaking, devastating, and inspiring. A history lesson and an all-consuming adventure with one of the most endearing characters I've ever encountered.
Reviewed by: Laura
The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao Cover Image
ISBN: 9781594483295
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: Riverhead Books - September 2nd, 2008

This book destroyed me, and I mean that in the best way possible. Beautiful language, an exquisitely heart-breaking love story, and gorgeous, wistfully descriptive passages about a Paris of a different time. Hands down, my favorite book ever, and my all-time favorite "romance."
Reviewed by: Laura
Giovanni's Room Cover Image
ISBN: 9780385334587
Availability: Hard to Find - Contact Store for Availability
Published: Delta - June 13th, 2000

This book has all the best ingredients for a good read: history, characters you wish were your friends, romance, and a built-in love of other literature. It had me ready to pack up and move to the island of Guernsey (now that the war is long over of course.) One of my favorite comfort novels.
Reviewed by: Erin
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The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society: A Novel Cover Image
ISBN: 9780385341004
Availability: Available from Warehouse - Usually Delivers in 3-14 Days
Published: Dial Press Trade Paperback - May 5th, 2009

I’ve never been one to read weighty biographies, but after cracking this one, I’m a convert. It helps that this particular story reads like the most literary of novels. The pages whip past as you absorb Catherine’s childhood with her cold, ambitious mother, her marriage to the strangest of princes, her voracious and intelligent mind, and her adjustment to royal life and ascension to power. I’ve yet to meet a character like this in a novel.
Reviewed by: Kat
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Catherine the Great: Portrait of a Woman Cover Image
ISBN: 9780345408778
Availability: Available from Warehouse - Usually Delivers in 3-14 Days
Published: Random House Trade Paperbacks - September 18th, 2012

Andrew Porter masterfully presents each of his characters' experiences with stunning believability: Elton losing his longtime job as a respected architect, Richard developing as a poet but struggling with his relationships with other men, and Chloe discovering the consequences of her radical boyfriend's actions. When Chloe drops out of college and returns home, she sets into motion a chain of events that sparks a reaction from everyone around her. I was struck by the air of secrecy and helplessness that pervades the story, mirroring the hushed secrets and misunderstandings that fuel the plot. And even when I knew how Chloe's story would inevitably end, I had to keep reading just to see how Porter would tie everything together. This is a beautifully written, suspenseful tragedy.

Reviewed by: Andrea
In Between Days Cover Image
ISBN: 9780307273512
Availability: Hard to Find - Contact Store for Availability
Published: Knopf - September 4th, 2012

Kevin Powers is an Iraq veteran who's earning his MFA in poetry, and it's abundantly clear in this book that he knows both what he's writing about and how to write about it. His protagonist, soldier John Bartle, is charged with mentoring the younger, much less resilient Murph, and the two look after each other during the siege of Al Tafar. This is an honest, raw, unflinching portrayal of the war and its effects on the soldiers, the victims, and their families. I am not someone who normally reads or enjoys war novels, but this one really struck a chord with me.
Reviewed by: Andrea
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The Yellow Birds: A Novel Cover Image
ISBN: 9780316219365
Availability: Available from Warehouse - Usually Delivers in 3-14 Days
Published: Little, Brown and Company - September 11th, 2012

I loved this memoir of growing up (mostly) in Texas in quite the dysfunctional family. Mary describes her childhood with the humor and compulsion of poetic therapy but the grit and reality of sand in the mouth. Her story is compelling, especially when describing her relationship with her mother and their reversal of roles. Best for anyone delving into the biography genre!

Reviewed by: Tracy
The Liars' Club: A Memoir Cover Image
ISBN: 9780143035749
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: Penguin Books - May 31st, 2005